Wars and State Making: Re-examining the Paradigm

Opening Keynote Lecture presented by Steven Pincus, Yale University, at the Center for Historical Research, Department of History at The Ohio State University on September 5, 2014.

Historians and social scientists agree that in the early modern period wars made states and states made war. In particular, scholars have agreed that the British state was forged through international warfare and that the British state did little else besides making war. Our evidence suggests that, in fact, the British state spent much higher percentage of its resources on economic development, especially in Scotland and the colonies, than its European rivals. And we found that Britain attained the key elements Weberian statehood not as a result of international conflict but rather because of civil war and reaction to fiscal crisis. Bellicists have long acknowledged that the British case was central to their claims, as Britain was one of the winners of the early modern struggle for statehood. Just as important, British state intervention in the economy played a key role in making Britain the first industrial nation.

The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research in the Department of History provides a stimulating intellectual environment for studying important historical issues around the world. Each year the Center brings together scholars from various disciplines to examine issues of broad contemporary relevance in historical perspective.